Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Over (and on) the sea to Skye

Usually the evening after the Skye half marathon is “a bit of a late one” but not this year, we had to be up and away early for a days’ sea kayaking with the legendary Gordon Brown. The early night proved to be fortuitous for two reasons, firstly I couldn’t imagine anything worse than kayaking with a hangover, and secondly on Sunday morning the police were pulling people over just outside Portree at an unreasonably early hour in the morning and breathalysing them, presumably hoping to catch people who had been enjoying the festivities the previous night after the Skye half marathon. Bert is still gobsmacked that he registered zero. So are we. 

The day of kayaking had been a birthday present from me to Simon and we were joined by Bert who had been kayaking before and Geoff who hadn’t and who was convinced that this was an attempt by me to drown him. It was also my attempt to start to do more kayaking, something I did enjoy and did quite a bit of until painful tendonitis in my elbows started to take the enjoyment out of it and I was desperately hoping that Gordon would have some answers. 

What a day we had for it, bright blue clear skies, seas as flat as a millpond, barely a breath of wind and so warm that only a t- shirt was required. Rather than practising paddle skills everyone had pretty much agreed that they just wanted to go for a days’ paddling with the tantalising prospect of seeing Otters and sea eagles and maybe basking sharks although the late winter has meant that the first basking sharks have only just appeared on the coast of Scotland.

Gordon started by selecting equipment for us and seemed to agree with my thoughts that some of my elbow problems may have been caused by the wrong equipment so I was armed with a smaller low volume kayak and a smaller, lighter paddle than I had ever tried before. Within minutes Gordon had also dispelled much of what I had previously been told about kayaking regarding kit and seating position and then we were off paddling through crystal clear waters. We set off from Ord and headed across Loch Eishort before turning into Loch Slapin a regular haunt for sea eagles on the cliffs of Rhuba Suisnish. We traced the coastline paddling between the outcrops of rock on the shoreline…. with only myself requiring to be rescued having wedged my kayak firmly on a rock….

This route gave fabulous views over to Rhum and the Small Isles before following the coastline to a little beach with a water fall and a ruined deserted village at Boreraig, abandoned during that dark period of Scottish history known as the highland clearances. Lunch time gave us time to explore these ruins, go hunting for adders and look at the fantastic fossils in the rocks, I had no idea that ammonites were so large. 

After lunch we paddled past an island with a seal colony where the inhabitants immediately dived into the water and proceeded to follow our progress, little black heads appearing as if from nowhere and disappearing just as quickly– we must have seemed to be moving painfully slowly to them. And I suspect we were with stopping to take photos as often as possible and just simply sitting trying to take in the magnificence of the scenery, there are some moments that you just want to hold on to forever and this was one of those. 

 Our final stop was on a sandy island with a coral beach which could have been taken from a photograph in any holiday brochure as it looked so exotic, aquamarine colour water, golden sand and coral beach with the tips of tiny waves glinting in the sunlight. Then Simon decided that this was all a bit too sedentary for him and he would like to get wet and practice various kayak skills that involve getting wet. Or very wet if you are not that skillful. We all watched with cameras poised. 

 It may have been a glorious day but the water temperature was really none too tempting but eventually Bert decided that he didn’t want to be left out and got in as well. On returning to Breakish we were able to relax in the hot tub in Gordon’s garden overlooking the sea and the magnificent mountains of Skye before the long, sleepy drive home. It was a great way to spend the day after the half marathon and most importantly for me I felt no pain at all from my dodgy elbows and I hadn’t bothered to strap them as I usually do when kayaking however the weather conditions were beautiful which helped so it will be interesting to see how I fare in tougher conditions. 


This year was the 30th Skye half marathon and believe it or not there are four folk who have done every single race and quite rightly they were awarded for their achievements at the post race prize giving. The honour of presenting the prizes fell to Simon, still the course record holder after 26 years. The course record was set on the old Skye half marathon course which started and finished in the town square and at 13.8 miles was slightly longer than the true half marathon distance. Now the race is the proper half marathon distance with a different start and finish venue to give people their all important exact half marathon time but with this change the race has lost some of its more informal atmosphere and latterly the involvement of Scottish athletics in the organisation, happily absent on Saturday, added a new level of humourlessness to proceedings. As it was the race seemed to be back with more relaxed local organisers and this gave the 30th race a happier feel to it and one which I felt had been missing over the last couple of years. As it was a special event Simon decided that he should wear the very same vest he was wearing when he set the record and his face was a picture when he tried to pull on the vest and realised that he was not quite the same size as he was when he set the record so the honour of wearing the vest fell to me.

Skye half marathon record holder

Simon presenting Bert with his prize
Davie getting his award for completing 30 Skye half marathons
The "30 skye half marathon" runners
It was a nice hot sunny day which has often been the case with the Skye half marathon and with just the right level of cooling breeze. And as usual for this course I ran a rubbish race. I think the sudden decrease drop in speed from my 7.08 mile 5 to 8.36 mile 8 tells its own story and I suffered on the undulating route. Already worn out from a dire week at work previously it took me all my concentration to keep moving forward and by the time I was half way up the climb heading towards the 10 mile mark I was in danger of a complete sense of humour failure before finally reaching the top of the hill, with Portree visible in the distance, andithing the top of the hill anskillfull.raph in any holiday brochure as it looked so exotic  finished well up as did Kata and  just a long downhill stretch to survive. As Simon pointed out it is probably the slowest that his vest has ever covered the half marathon course. Meh! 

In fact a look at my garmin after the race convinced me that I have probably done less hilly hill races

Davie managed to get round his 30th Skye half without incident, Simon had shot off ahead of me along with Robin and although I tried to keep them in sight they eventually disappeared into the distance. Unusually I never saw Hamish the entire race and within the last few miles of the race Heather skipped past me and annoyingly it looked like she wasn’t even trying. Cath chose Skye as her come back race after being plagued with illness and injury recently and finished well up as did Kata and Janice who made up the HBT ladies team. 

The course did claim a victim or two, with the race winner collapsing on finishing and Bert who experienced a sudden sharp pain in his foot at 5 miles but carried on to finish the race. He also managed to just get the better of Geoff and as you would expect he is making the most of “I beat Geoff even with a broken foot” although at the time none of us realised that his foot was broken.

A swim and the prize giving were followed by drinks sitting out in the sunshine at “Marmalade” a venue with a great beer garden but, strangely for a pub, a tendency to run out of beer glasses and then a celebratory dinner at the Isles Hotel where 3 of the 4 “30 Skye half marathons club” members were in attendance and a merry night was had by all.
Post race relaxing
Not nicking the table...just moving to a sunny spot

We've done all 30!

Do these go with my outfit?
I promised i wouldn't put these photos on facebook - but I didnt say anything about my blog...heh heh heh!

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